Justice Yaw Apau
Justice Yaw Apau, Sole Commissioner of the Judgment Debt Commission, has asked the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to furnish the Commission with documents indicating that Construction Pioneers (CP) was given tax exemptions by government.
According to the Commissioner, no company operating in Ghana could be exempted from paying tax without parliamentary approval, therefore claims by CP that it was exempted from paying tax needed to be investigated further.
The ‘Commission of Enquiry into the payment of Judgement Debt and Akin’ under C.I. 79 to investigate the frivolous and dubious payments of huge monies to undeserving individuals and companies, was appointed by President John Mahama after public uproar over the payments in what has now come to be termed as Judgement Debts (JD).
Notable among them were payments made to CP (â‚¬94 million) and the never-ending case of GH¢51.2million parted to the self-styled National Democratic Congress (NDC) financier, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, both of which many believed were dubious and frivolous.
Documents available to the Commission indicated that since 1991, CP had not been paying taxes for its operations in the country and the company reportedly claimed that the government gave them tax exemptions.
Appearing before the Sole-Commissioner to answer questions regarding the tax obligation of CP yesterday, Kaleo Rogation Adam, Deputy Commissioner in charge of Large Tax Office (LTO), Domestic Tax Revenue Division, GRA, said an audit was conducted in 2001 on the operations of CP ‘and we came out with a liability and notified the company accordingly.’
Mr Adam said CP then wrote a letter saying government granted them tax exemptions on their income and that of their expatriate staff.
However, he said, ‘We were of the view that since Parliament did not give approval for that tax exemption in line with Article 174 of the 1992 Constitution, we do not think that they could enjoy that exemption so we were still pushing for them to pay but they refused.’
The Counsel for the Commission, Dometi Kofi Sorkpor, sought to find out from Mr Adam whether CP provided them with any document regarding the tax exemption claim.
Mr Adam said they had a correspondence from CP which indicated that they had exemption from government but ‘we have not cited any agreement document from them or parliamentary approval in that direction.’
Even though he said they have not cited any document regarding the tax exemption, he was of the belief that during the auditing, such document was cited by the auditors.
When Kofi Sorkpor demanded for the full audit report, Mr Adam told the Commission that the report would be made available later since he was not having it.
Mr Adam said GRA stopped pursuing the matter because CP notified them that the tax issues were before the Accra High Court and the International Court of Arbitration.
He said, ‘Because we did not want to be dragged to the court for contempt, we stopped pursuing the case.’
The Sole Commissioner promised to help GRA to chase companies to honour their tax obligations.
By Cephas Larbi
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